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Explorer of the Seas 5 day Bermuda review. 8/26-8/31 Looong.


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Explorer of the Seas 5 day Bermuda Review 8/26 – 8/31

 

 

Background:

CCL Triumph to Canada balcony cabin

RCCL Nordic Empress to Bermuda balcony cabin (now consider suites since dry-dock)

NCL Dawn Florida and Bahamas Penthouse suite

NCL Dawn Florida and Bahamas Penthouse suite

NCL Spirit Caribbean and Bermuda Owners Suite

 

Embarkation: Driving to Bayonne is a breeze. RCCL is VERY organized and quick. Much easier than driving to NYC cruise terminal and a lot less hectic. Boarding was delayed by immigration. Boarded by 12:30. Very nice waiting area, quick and organized check-in. The shuttle buses run quickly. Probably one of the best and most organized embarkations we have been through. Once on board we could not enter our cabin until 1:30. We ate lunch at the Windjammer.

 

Ship: Explorer is the largest ship we have been on. Boarding on deck 1, however, is less than exciting. You enter the ship in a hall and there is no initial “wow” factor. The ship is clean and well maintained and HUGE. Very impressed by the promenade. There were 3,607 passengers on board during our cruise. However, we never felt crowded at any time. There were a lot of kids on board and we wished that parents would not let their children run wild without supervision. This is a big complaint we all heard a million times on these boards, so no need to go any further with it. Our problem with the Explorer (and I assume all Voyager Class Ships) is the lack of ocean views. Unless you were on the top deck or promenade deck, it was difficult to find an ocean view while walking around the ship. Often making feel like you were in a large hotel rather then a cruise ship. Explorer was very stable on the ocean and rarely did we feel any movement. They are always cleaning and maintaining the ship. In fact, one day in port they were scrapping and painting railings on the balconies above ours. We did come back to our cabin and found our balcony and furniture covered in paint chips from this.

 

Cabin: E1 Aft 9392. Wow, was this cabin small. I know we are use to suites, but the E1’s are hardly big enough for two people to maneuver in. My wife and I spent the week bumping into each other and had a very hard time organizing our things due to the lack of space. Frankly, this was the smallest cabin we have ever had on a cruise ship. Well maintained and the bed was very comfortable. Just very small. The balcony was very large, however. One problem with the Voyager Class Ships is their AFT design. A very large waste of space with the superstructure. The balconies are anything but “private”. The deck above looks down onto your balcony, you look down onto the deck below, you can easily see next store, and you can look down onto the crew area which is a huge lack of privacy for them while trying to take time away from their work and passengers. Also, you can constantly hear the “crew announcements” from your balcony. The superstructure also causes echoing making these balconies less then peaceful. RCCL should have taken these aft cabins and pushed them out. If each aft cabin was pushed out to the end of where the balcony is now and the balcony pushed to the end of the superstructure, it would have not only made for much more private balconies, but better views and an increase in about a dozen more cabins on the ship. Also, the E1’s are right next to “Family Suites”. This made for loud late night gatherings of families and kids on their balconies and sleepless nights for us. We are Aft lovers and mostly sail in Aft cabins and/or suites. Frankly, the Aft cabins on the Explorer are the least desirable cabins we have sailed in yet. Also, this was the first time on any cruise that we could easily hear our neighbors next door though the wall and in the hallway.

 

Dining: OK, I will admit that we are “freestyle” or “anytime dining” lovers. We hate being told where and when and with whom to eat. We had the late seating (8:30) and a table for 2. Main floor (deck 3) of the very impressive dining room. Service was good, food was well presented and looked great. However, overall, I felt the food was fair. Rather bland with a lack of spices. Unfortunately, cruise ship food has been dropping in quality over the past few years and here was no exception. We didn’t starve and always found something appealing on the menu. But, it just lacked taste. We ate in the Windjammer and Island Grill for most lunches and found the buffet to be satisfactory. A lot of choices, moved well, etc. We did eat in Portifino’s one evening. Now THAT was a great meal! Great service, tasty food, etc. Well worth the extra money. We have learned over the years that if you want really GOOD food aboard cruise ships today, you need to go to the “extra charge” restaurants. We know this, accept it and budget for it. Frankly, we prefer NCL over RCCL in dining..

 

Entertainment: The productions shows on the Explorer are the best we have ever seen on any cruise line. Fast paced, full of energy, visually exciting and full of talent. The Ice Show is amazing and not to be missed. The parades in the Promenade are very exciting and a great way to start and end your cruise. Now, admittedly, we do not participate in most on-board activities. We cruise to relax and lounge. So, other then the shows, we did not see the cruise director very much at all. In fact, I cannot even remember his name. He didn’t seem to be all over the ship as most other cruise directors are. He did not show up at the sail-a-way party on deck when we sailed out of Bayonne nor Bermuda and was not present at the Caribbean deck party and BBQ on deck Tuesday night in Bermuda.

 

Public Area’s: The Royal Promenade is the heart of the ship. Very impressive at 2 football fields in length and 4 story’s tall. We enjoyed walking through here often with occasional cocktails at the English Pub and Champagne Bar. Snacks are always available at the café and various shops make for nice browsing. The top deck and pool area has many spots to sit and people watch. However, our favorite place was the Solarium, the pool area for adults. This was a great place to go for those passengers who didn’t have children and wanted to get away from the noise of the main pool area. However, even though it is posted in several areas that the Solarium is for adults over 18 only, many families ignored this and still brought their children in there and set-up their chairs. We only wish the RCCL would enforce these rules a bit more. Our favorite spot on Explorer was Dizzy’s Lounge at the very top of the ship. We often went here for pre-dinner and after dinner cocktails. It was very relaxing, never crowded and had nice piano music.

 

Service: Service around the ship was very good. Always received smiles and “hello’s” from the crew. Our room steward, Manuel, was very good as was our servers Sherman and Juma. Great job guys!

 

Bermuda: This was our 3rd time in Bermuda. Of all the islands, Bahamas, Caribbean, etc. Bermuda is by far our favorite. Actually, we even prefer the Dockyard over any other ports in Bermuda. Again, this is due to how peaceful it is. However, the Dockyard is building up since more and more of the smaller cruise ships are being retired, leaving only the larger ones that cannot dock in Hamilton or St. George. While there we noticed the construction of another pier to accommodate more than one ship next year. A hidden gem at the Dockyards and Kings Warf is Snorkel Park. We visited here both days we were in Bermuda and greatly enjoyed it. It is at the far side of the Dockyard opposite the ship and well worth a visit. It has a very nice beach, clean, a place to rent snorkel equipment, etc. a place to have cocktails and lunch. It’s free to enter. We had the pleasure of speaking with the owner while having a drink there on Weds. He was telling us about the lack of cooperation from some of the cruise lines as far as telling passengers about the park. He mentioned that NCL will send over passengers, but many others do not. We found no information on Snorkel Park in any of the Bermuda flyers we received on the Explorer. However, we do highly recommend you visit this park for a relaxing afternoon and it’s just a 5 minute walk from the ship. On Tuesday evening they also have “Destination Dockyard”. This is a street festival with crafters, food, live entertainment, the mall is open, etc. It is a great fun filled evening with a gorgeous view of the ship across the bay. After the street festival, you can head over to Snorkel Park again for a Caribbean Beach Party. There is an admission fee for this, but well worth it with live Caribbean music, food, drinks, etc. This kind of replaces the Can’t Stop The Music Hawkins Island Party of the past. We also visited the glass factory, rum cake factory, the mall, etc. There is more and more to do at the Dockyards every time we return.

 

Excursion: We only did one excursion this year and that was the Snuba. This is where you go out to a reef and scuba dive with long hoses attached to a vest that goes up to a tank in a raft for breathing. The dive itself was a lot of fun and enjoyable. But, out of the 3 ½ hour excursion, only a half hour of it is spent in the water. The rest of the time is getting there and sitting around waiting as they can only take 8 at a time. Really not worth the $80 per person we spent.

 

Spa: We used the mineral hot tub in the spa several times. This was the ideal hot tub to use if you didn’t want to be crowded or deal with kids ( it’s for adults only) as there were rarely more than just a few adults in there at a time. More often than not, we were the only ones in there. We both had Acupuncture treatments at $150 each… Let’s just say that next time I’ll stick with a massage. Service in the spa was good although we always hate the obligatory sales pitch at the end of your message or treatment trying to sell you lotions, herbs, etc. Usually we mention to our spa people not to try and sell us anything after our treatment. But, we forgot this time.

 

Drinks: I found that the drinks on the Explorer were some of the strongest we have had on any cruise ship. Often, such as with NCL, cruise lines tend to be a bit light on the alcohol. But not on the Explorer. Our Cosmo’s and other drinks were well made and tasty.

 

Debarkation: This is where RCCL is really lacking and is the most frustrating for us. I remembered this from our last RCCL cruise from several years ago. First, there is no Express Debarkation like on other cruise lines. Others, such as NCL, will allow you off first and quickly if you can carry all of your luggage off with you. Not RCCL. Also, you must vacate your cabin by 8am and wait in the theatre, Studio B or lounge for your colored tag to be called. This caused a chaotic, frustrating, stressful end of a nice relaxing cruise. We originally waited in Studio B. But, then they turned on all the TV’s and blasted CNN throughout the room to the point that you couldn’t hear the color tag announcements. We finally got up and went out in the lobby and sat on planters for and hour and a half to wait for our tag to be called. There were people everywhere, sitting on the stairs, on tables, on planters, on the floor, etc. Kids were getting bored and loud and running around, people were spilling their coffee, etc. Not a great way to end a vacation. Both NCL and CCL let you stay in your cabin until your deck is called to disembark, which is far more comfortable and relaxing and a much better way to end a vacation. Now, if other cruise lines can do that successfully, why can’t RCCL? This is such a bone of contention with us that it could very well keep us from sailing RCCL again until this changes. It is just too frustrating, stressful and chaotic for us and really not a great way to end a cruise.

 

Final Thoughts: All in all we enjoyed our cruise. We always do. The ship is very impressive with lots to do and see. Overall, we just aren’t real RCCL fans. We prefer NCL. Now, I know there are a lot of people on this RCCL forum that dislike NCL, and that’s OK. We have sailed with them 3 times and have always been more than happy with them and had great experiences. As an example, NCL throws a party for all past passengers with free drinks, snacks, the officers attend and you can mingle with them and talk, etc. As a past passenger of RCCL, there was nothing more then a coupon book in our cabin, which NCL also supplies. We also just really prefer the Freestyle dining option. And, the debarkation fiasco really bothers us. Will we sail RCCL again? Probably, if it’s an itinerary we really want at a price we can’t pass up AND if they fix their debarkation. Also, next time we would spend the few extra bucks for a slightly larger cabin.

 

I think I covered everything. If there is anything else I think of I will post it. If anyone has any questions, ask away and I’ll answer the best I can.

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I noticed you mentioned that NCL holds a party for past passengers. Just wanted to let you know that RCL does the same thing. All Crown and Anchor members should receive an invitation in their staterooms. I believe they call it a "repeaters" party. It includes free drinks, snacks, and a chance to meet the captain and other officers of the ship.

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Thanks for the great review, especially the parts about the Dockyard/Bermuda! I'm getting more and more excited for my Nov. 4 cruise on the Explorer.

 

question for others -- I thought RCCL did allow self-debarkation for those who wanted to carry off luggage? I've never done it but I'm sure I've seen others doing it...?

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I noticed you mentioned that NCL holds a party for past passengers. Just wanted to let you know that RCL does the same thing. All Crown and Anchor members should receive an invitation in their staterooms. I believe they call it a "repeaters" party. It includes free drinks, snacks, and a chance to meet the captain and other officers of the ship.

 

Did they get rid of the free champagne and cocktails on the promenade for formal nights? We don't normally attend, but always remember them having this as we walked to dinner??

We also enjoy the return cruiser party

:p

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I guess that your invitation missed getting to you and that's a shame. The past guest parties are fun!

 

I do wonder why, if you have always stayed in suites, would you pick an E1 stateroom?

 

Yes, self disembarkation is available on RCCL ships.

 

HappyFamilyNJ - We looked into this cruise and then found out that it was NJ week and would be packed with school children on their fall break. Have fun!

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We booked the E1 because it was the only aft cabin available. Since it was only a 5 day cruise and we knew it was a smaller cabin than we were use to, we figured we would still prefer an aft cabin. We tend to spend a lot of time on our balcony rather then the pool area, as it is usually more peaceful. However, the Explorer afts are not as peaceful as we had experienced on other ships in the past. We still enjoyed it though.

 

I wish we had received the invitation to the past guest party as we do enjoy those.

 

I made a special trip to the guest relations desk to ask about the express debarkation. I was told that they do not offer that and it was not allowed. Now, I thought for sure I read on here that they did offer it as long as you can carry off your luggage. So, we specifically packed with that in mind. But, we were told that we could not.

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Logcabin -- could be that they didn't have express debarkation for some reason on your cruise.. sometimes the guest relations staff is just inexperienced (as we had on the Enchantment earlier this year, when they told us we couldn't put limits on our kids' seapasses, and I'm sure we could on other ships...). Oh well, sorry for your difficult time debarking, sitting around in the public areas isn't a good way to end your vacation, I agree with you!

 

Seaisland -- sorry you won't be on Explorer with us... I'm ready for the kids (as I'm bringing 2 of my own! ;) )

 

happy cruising!

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I made a special trip to the guest relations desk to ask about the express debarkation. I was told that they do not offer that and it was not allowed. Now, I thought for sure I read on here that they did offer it as long as you can carry off your luggage. So, we specifically packed with that in mind. But, we were told that we could not.

I believe that they do not have express debarkation in NJ because you have to take a bus to get to the terminal, and it would just become a mess on the bus if people also had their luggage.

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Did they get rid of the free champagne and cocktails on the promenade for formal nights? We don't normally attend, but always remember them having this as we walked to dinner??

We also enjoy the return cruiser party

:p

 

 

They had the free chamgagne last year on the Navigator. However the only other thing they were offering was soda, no cocktails other than champagne. At the past guest party they had several different cocktails available to choose from. I don't know if you could ask for something specific as I didn't try. I've seen differing opinions on the boards some say they were available to get whatever they wanted and others say they were told no.

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Seaisland -- sorry you won't be on Explorer with us... I'm ready for the kids (as I'm bringing 2 of my own! ;) )

 

happy cruising!

I am trying to talk DH into doing the 5 night on the Grandeur in October. I printed out this review, so that he can read about Bermuda.

 

logcabin - Thank you for the hint on Snorkel Park. What is the admittance fee at night?

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Nice review with it being fair and balanced. A couple of things though. RCI does have express debarkation. They may not in Bayonne due to the process but it's there. Also on all Carnival cruises, we had to be out of the cabins by 8:00. NCL is the only cruise line that has allowed us to stay in our cabin past eight.

 

I was on the Norwegian Dawn in July and had a very nice time. Overall I would cruise NCL again but the ship was missing the WOW factor that I have experienced on RCI. I know that food is very subjective but I found overall the food to be a little better on RCI due to the Windjammer. The food in the lido buffet on the Dawn was not good at all. I did like Freestyle dining though. Thanks again for posting your thoughts.

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I believe it was $10 p/p for the beach party.

Thank you! Sounds reasonable.

 

We have never vacated our RCCL stateroom by 8:00. We are usually at breakfast and tell our steward that we will be back up one more time for freshening up and to get our bags. Thes teward is welcome to go ahead and change bed, etc., but they usually tell us that it is OK, they have plenty to keep them busy. We also tip extra.

 

On our last Carnival Glory cruise, everyone was allowed to stay in their staterooms until their deck was called . personally, I prefer to wait in the public areas, and people watch. :D

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HAL also lets you stay in your stateroom until your tag is called.

I wonder if you have to be a crown and anchor member to receive the invite. Joining is optional so maybe if you didn't get an invite, you didn't join C & A. Otherwise, looks like a slip up!

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We will also be on the Nov 4 sailing with our two granddaughters.The one thing that gets me with RCCL [i am a diamond+ member] is that you have to be out of your room by 830 but you cant get into it coming on till 130,why?If the stewards worked they should have the room done.

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The Accupuncture was interesting, but didn't do a thing for me nor my wife. We bother suffer from back problems, so she concentrated on those spots. It didn't hurt and was relaxing. But the final outcome was nothing. She did say that it takes 3 sessions to finally start feeling the effects. But, at $120 each for 3 sessions, that wasn't going to happen. Next time, just a basic massage.

 

As I said, I see no reason why they can't let you stay in your cabin until your deck is called. Other cruise lines do it (I have been on them). This sitting around the lobby and halls and such for 1 1/2 - 2 hours with bored kids, etc. is chaotic, stressful and frustating. All the relaxing we did during the week was wiped away by this debarkation. This really is a major issue with us and could very well keep us from sailing RCCL again.

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I was on the Explorer in July and will agree that the disembarkation process needs help. They don't do the self disembarking because of the shuttle bus and people trying to get all their stuff on/off the bus. Understandable. The whole bit about having to wait in the theatre or studio B is a joke. You can really wait in any public area as long as you can hear when they announce your color. We waited outside in chairs on deck 4, then moved inside to the aquarium bar.

 

They always have a C&A party, even on the 5night cruises. If you got the coupon book you should have gotten an invitation. Our party was in Studio B with 1,300 people.

 

Word to those thinking of cruising out of NY/NJ. Don't go the 2 weeks prior to Labor Day unless you like alot of kids. All the schools here start after Labor Day and all the summer camps seems to end in mid-August so many, many families take their summer vacation during this in-between time. I was on the Explorer during this time 2 years ago and there were 1,000 kids in the AO program.

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